The Tortoise and the Hare - Who Will Win the Weight Loss Race?

Losing Weight: Who Wins? The Tortoise or the Hare?

Quick question, is it better (long term) to lose weight fast like the Hare, or slow like the Tortoise?

Most people would probably guess that slow and steady wins the race.

That is usually the moral of the story…


According to a recent study:

“Losing weight at a fast initial rate leads to greater short-term weight reductions, does not result in increased susceptibility to weight regain, and is associated with larger weight losses and overall long-term success in weight management.”

The study continued by stating:

“We suggest that, within lifestyle weight control programs, substantial efforts should be focused on promoting large rather than small behavioral changes during the initial weeks of treatment.”

Strong stuff!

The Study

Conducted at the University of Florida and published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, here is how the study was conducted.

262 middle-aged obese (BMI over 30) women were enrolled in strict diet and exercise programs.

After the first month, the ladies were split into three groups, labeled FAST, MODERATE, and SLOW, depending on how much weight they had lost.

The FAST group contained women who had lost 1.5 or more pounds each week.

The MODERATE group lost between .5 and 1.5 pounds per week.

While the SLOW group lost under .5 pounds each week.

They continued the study for six months and, of course, the FAST group lost the most weight, followed by the MODERATE GROUP, and then the SLOW group…

No surprise, but read on to find out what happened 18 months later…

After 18 months (12 months on their own), the researchers checked in with the ladies for the final time. The results determined that members of the FAST group were five times more
likely than the SLOW Group to achieve their goals of 10% total weight loss.

And, most importantly, they were most able to maintain their new weight after 18 months.

The researchers also calculated that ladies in the MODERATE group were three times more likely to achieve and maintain their weight loss goals than the SLOW group members.

So is Losing Weight Fast the Secret to Long Term Weight Loss?

You hear all the time about the secret to long term weight loss is a slow “lifestyle change.” If you don’t change your lifestyle, then a “diet” will just be a short term affair.

However, in this study, the FAST group lost weight at a rate of only 1.5 pounds a week, which is still considered safe by most if not all weight loss authorities.

So I wouldn’t go on an overly aggressive diet thinking that this study somehow gives credence to the idea that fad diets are the key to long term weight loss, but it does indicate that you can possibly be trying to lose weight too slowly!

What This Might Mean

More research is needed, but it appears that if a person isn’t seeing tangible results in a short enough time that it can hinder motivation.

And 1.5 pounds might just be that magic number.

I will do more research and try to find that magic number for you. If you know of any other research please comment below.

Until next time,

Dr. Steven Sisskind
Dr. Steven Sisskind

Steve Sisskind, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.

As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.

Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?

I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.

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Nackers, Lisa M., Kathryn M. Ross, and Michael G. Perri. “The Association Between Rate of Initial Weight Loss and Long-Term
Success in Obesity Treatment: Does Slow and Steady Win The Race?” International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, May 2010.

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  1. My question is if the women who lost weight faster hadn’t had the weight on as long, or if they just had way more to loose, which tends to come off easier/faster vs women who just had to loose 10lbs or so. Seems like if your set point (or if you have the “thrift gene”) the ability to loose weight quickly or slowly is affected. WLF#1 seems to help with that slowness! So while the research here is interesting, it’s not really proof, enough to convince me as a future clinician that all the confounding factors were eliminated.

  2. I am 66yeard old and I weigh 125 and would like to lose5t to 10lbd van it b done with your profuct

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Jo Ann,

      Thank you for writing in! Yes, RealDose Weight Loss Formula NO.1 can help with weight loss by curbing your appetite, decreasing your sugar cravings and improving mood. However, without a healthy diet in place, it may take a while for the full effects to surface. I suggest that you pair your supplement with small healthy but permanent dietary changes to ensure that you not only lose weight, but also keep them away for a long time. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  3. Although I don’t need to lose more than a pound or so of fat on my belly, I’m always interested to read that kind of articles because the same questions always come to my mind… If we lose fat quickly, what happens to the skin?? Do you end up with an apron of skin in lieu of a tummy?? Do you end up with lots of stretch marks? Is there a way to make sure your skin will ‘shrink’?
    What do you think?
    Thank you for your answer.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Eve,

      Thank you for posting your great question! If you do lose weight quickly your skin will not tighten just as fast. We recommend a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week to avoid complications and also to give your skin time to catch up too. It is also important to maintain good hydration and get as much fresh fruit and vegetables, as you go along your weight loss journey. It helps maintain the suppleness of the skin and the vital nutrients from your fresh food does wonders in protecting the skin too. Stretch marks may or may not appear as you lose weight, there are a few steps you can do to minimize the marks such as proper hydration, application of moisturizer and/or exercise. But I do not recommend any other course which could be too extreme and cause more harm than good. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  4. I lost 25 lbs in 6 weeks and developed Gall Bladder disease. The literature mentions this association. Yes, the weight has stayed off for 5 years, but most probably because my digestion has been impacted.

  5. Can you help me to get disciplined? I am in need of serious help … my whole day is big DISORDER! Please help me, Thank you!

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! If discipline or sticking to a plan is your main issue, then I suggest that you try on making 1 small healthy change per day. You can start small such as getting more water and opting for leafy greens instead of starchy vegetables. By the next day or next few days, try adding another regimen such as walking an extra two or three blocks, getting more exercise or find an activity you enjoy doing. The point of this plan is to help you make small permanent changes which you can easily adapt to your daily living. They are easier to stick to and soon, you will not even have to think about them as they become instinct. Do not be too hard on yourself the moment you fail to stick to your new plan. It happens to the best of us and it is our willingness to become healthy that determines our success. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  6. Hi Dr Steve, I had been using coconut oil for gargling for 15 minutes, and then spitting it out. It is suppose to be good for gums and taking the impurities out of the mouth. Recently, I saw on the internet a woman who said that by using green wheat powder is a better solution. A 1/2 teaspoon in a shot glass of water is better then using the coconut oil. One can swallow it. It also will not clog up the drains in one’s sink. Also, it is good for the old filling in the mouth. The wheat powder concoction will eliminate headache, if one swallows it What do you think of the idea, Dr. Steve,? Thanks for all your encouragement! Esther

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Esther,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I am not certain about the Green Wheat powder and may need to read up on that. I’ll be sure to keep you posted. It has piqued my interest and will do some digging on that. It is good to hear from you Esther! Make it a healthy day!

  7. Hey…..I am 59….5’1’……weight 166 and can’t get this weight around my stomach off. I had a Female partial surgery been 18 yrs now. HEIP

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Janice,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! We understand your concerns and can feel you are frustrated. I do recommend that you start with small changes that you can turn into a permanent habit. Small changes such as eating more fish instead of beef or pork, going meatless one day a week and walking an extra 2 blocks, goes a long way in your weight loss success. Small changes are easier to adapt and turn into a lifetime habit. Be sure to do them regularly and try your very best to stick to the small changes. As soon as you have adjusted well, you can start adding other routines such as adding more vegetables to your daily diet, going meatless 2 says a week and adapting a new exercise routine…and so on… Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  8. What did the ladies eat, who were in the fast weight loss group study? How long were exercise sessions? (U of FL study)

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Shari,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting your question! The exact meals or caloric intake of the Ladies participating was not disclosed in the study but they were encouraged to reduce their intake to facilitate weight loss. It is important to note that the study was focused on determining who kept or maintained their weight loss longer and who gained the weight back faster. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  9. I’m glad to know that one table spoon of honey is good for all types of health issues. And coconut oil is also good how many table spoon’s to take daily of each coconut oil and honey I’d like to try it.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Joan,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! A tablespoon of coconut oil is safe to have every day and the best way to add it to your diet would be as a dressing, to smoothies and even to fry or roast vegetables with. You can use the in place of butter and olive oil in most recipes. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  10. Seeing significant and steady results sure helps keep me motivated! I have read recently that consuming a TBSP of coconut oil per day may help increase weight loss…do the benefits of this healthy oil out weigh the high calorie count? What is your take on this idea Dr. Steve? …….Thanks!

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Celeste,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Coconut oil is a great addition to any diet as it is packed of healthy fats. However, you may still want to keep a close eye on your other fat consumption so as not to have elevated levels of cholesterol and LDL. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

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